Went out Saturday with SMP paladins Chris Wayman and John Francis Phillimore to do the Centri Commerciali (shopping centres). Our motive: a bulky order for Isole Abbandonate/Abandoned Islands from Feltronelli, the retail-editorial giant founded in 1954 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, inspired publisher and futile revolutionary, now expanded into the retail parks, some 25 of them, under the admanspeak banner ‘Feltrinelli Village’. The Veneto part of the order was spread between four such ‘villages’ and all three of us were curious to inspect these bucolic communities.
First up, the Marcon Valecenter (to all intents and purposes the Valecenter is Marcon) – architecturally unremarkable, but light and cheerful and quite busy for the last Saturday of February. Of course the ‘Feltrinelli Village’ is no more a village than I’m a milkmaid, but I doubt that even Marie-Antoinette’s cowshed was as bright and clean and anxious-to-please. Five copies of The Great Book were briskly consigned to a helpful amazon, who exclaimed (gratifyingly) ‘How nice – Something on Venice!’ (though in Italian), which seemed a strange cry ten miles from the Serenissima, but it turned out to be a leitmotif of our brief tour, prompting the thought that central ordering, if it had turned out OK for us, might not be without it’s downside.
And so to Auchan at Zelarino, on the doorstep of the Watery City. The Shopping Centre Experience. Every race and creed. Good sandwich bar, crowded but efficient. All shapes and sizes of children being squeezed into all shapes and sizes of springwear, being pacified with buzzing electric toys… The Feltrinelli Village a mercifully (if unintentionally) child-free zone. While the boys bankrupted their charm-bank on the sparky sales girls, I wandered off to check out the poetry shelves. Surprising to find two separate editions of Nazim Hikmet, but no Riccardo Held (Venice’s Big Bard) or Seamus Heaney (‘Scemassini’), who’s much translated here and, seventy last year, has been in the news, and in Bologna to boot.
By the time we reached Padua’s Giotto Centre, your correspondent was flagging, and ditto Giotto, by the look of things, some of his escalators out for the count, and a general air of ‘that’s enough for now’. Modern retail needs to gleam. The Fell Vill was gleaming its heart out, but custom was thin, if not emaciated. To be fair, the carpark was full, so unless canny out-of-towners were improvising a free park-and-ride facility, the consumers were probably consuming their buy-one-get-one-free vegetarian lasagne somewhere out of sight, or site, if they knew what was good for them.
I prised our two Argonauts from the sirens, and we headed for Nane della Giulia, where the wise sup…